The Spaces We Live In – 2016 Summer Chronicle 5

July 18, 2016 by Jim Miller

houseBy Jim Miller

Where we live is who we are. Surely, the country, state, city, and neighborhoods we occupy profoundly shape us, but does not the house craft our being in the most intimate of ways?

Gaston Bachelard observes in The Poetics of Space:

For our house is our corner of the world. As has often been said, it is our first universe, a real cosmos in every sense of the word.”

Hence, the kind of space we choose to live in has a particularly profound impact on our identity. Bachelard again notes,

Thus the dream house must possess every virtue. However spacious, it must also be a cottage, a dove-cote, a nest, a chrysalis. Intimacy needs the heart of a nest.”

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Bush League Nation – 2016 Summer Chronicles 4

July 11, 2016 by Jim Miller

The Modesto Nuts. Now THAT's baseball!

By Jim Miller

The Major League Baseball All-Star Game is in San Diego and despite the glaring lack of Padres on the team, many local and visiting fans will be taking in the pricey spectacle in all its corporate glory (confession: I will be there). With a huge Fan Fest, the Home Run Derby and the main event itself, San Diego will be baseball central for the week, at least on paper.

But if you really want to get to the heart of the game, I suggest you go bush league.

One of my favorite places to see a baseball game is in Arcata, California up in the Redwood Empire where the Humboldt Crabs have played in the same collegiate summer league since 1945.

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Reflections on What July 4th Means to the Working Class – 2016 Summer Chronicles 3

July 5, 2016 by Jim Miller

class

By Jim Miller

As the Fourth of July is the day when we celebrate the Declaration of Independence, it’s important to remember Jefferson himself believed that each new generation needed to make the American creed their own.

And everyone from slaves to women to working people did just that as we see in Frederick Douglass’s great speech “What to the Slave is the 4th of July?”, the early feminist manifesto “Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, Seneca Falls,” and the much lesser known “Working Men’s Declaration of Independence.”

This last is centrally important to remember because while Americans are largely aware that the battle for inclusion involved long and heroic abolition, civil rights, and women’s movements, struggles around issues of class have all-too-frequently been relinquished to the dustbin of history.

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Last Days of the Honeycreepers and Honeyeaters – 2016 Summer Chronicles 2

June 27, 2016 by Jim Miller

ocean through jungle

By Jim Miller

There is something deeply and tragically resonant about extinction in paradise. After returning from a hike on Haleakala where I was lucky enough to have spotted a number of rare birds, I sat on the lanai of my room on the edge of the Maui rainforest and read this from Errol Fuller’s haunting book, Lost Animals: Extinction and the Photographic Record:

There are two groups of birds on the Hawaiian Islands that are notorious for the number of extinct species they contain. Although these birds are not particularly closely related, they have names that are similar and this sometimes causes confusion.

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In the Dark Forest of the Self – 2016 Summer Chronicles #1

June 20, 2016 by Jim Miller

dark forestBy Jim Miller

Summer is here and it’s time to take a break from my usual column and stretch the form a little with some chronicles. As I explained last year, the chronicle is a literary genre born in Brazil:

In the summer of 1967, the great Brazilian writer, Clarice Lispector, began a seven-year stint as a writer for Jornal de Brasil [The Brazilian News] not as a reporter but as a writer of “chronicles,” a genre peculiar to Brazil.

As Giovanni Pontiero puts it in the preface to Selected Chrônicas, a chronicle, “allows poets and writers to address a wider readership on a vast range of topics and themes.

The general tone is one of greater freedom and intimacy than one finds in comparable articles or columns in the European or U.S. Press.”

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A Bad Climate? The State of Social Justice Efforts in the Labor and Environmental Movements

June 13, 2016 by Jim Miller

no bakkenBy Jim Miller

Among the stories that you may have missed during the stretch run of the primary season was some significantly bad news out of labor on the national front.

Several large unions in the building trades came out against a plan by some of the biggest public sector unions to join forces with environmentalist Tom Steyer in order to fund a major anti-Trump get out the vote operation in the fall. The New York Times noted that:

Two of the Democratic Party’s most loyal constituencies, labor and environmentalists, are clashing over an effort to raise tens of millions of dollars for an ambitious voter turnout operation aimed at defeating Donald J. Trump in the November election.

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Good Things Progressives Can Do Down-Ballot

June 6, 2016 by Jim Miller

Pro-Tip: Start at the Bottom of Your Ballot

Down-Ballot

By Jim Miller

While most of the attention is on the Presidential race this primary season, there are still some important things progressive voters can weigh in on down-ballot here in San Diego on June 7th that will do some good.

Here is a short list:

Vote Yes on Proposition I: Sure, $15 an hour is coming soon in California, but voting yes on Proposition I in San Diego will immediately lift the local minimum wage to $10.50 an hour (and eventually $11.50), giving a well-deserved raise and providing five much-needed sick days to over 170,000 hard working San Diegans. It will also right the wrong that was done by Mayor Faulconer and the Chamber of Commerce crew when they screwed local workers out of this necessary hand up.

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Dream Big: Why Voting for Sanders Still Matters, Despite the Electoral Math

May 31, 2016 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

bernie sanders big ideaWhat struck me the most about the recent Sanders rally in National City was how much the crowd embodied the notion of the beloved community.

As opposed to the corporate media caricature of Sanders’ supporters as a group of mostly angry, white “Bernie bros,” this huge gathering of over ten thousand people was diverse in age, gender, sexuality, race, and class.

It was also a kind, gentle crowd that fell silent when Sanders, in a moving gesture, stopped his speech when …

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On Dark Patches and Redemption

May 23, 2016 by Jim Miller
Thumbnail image for On Dark Patches and Redemption

By Jim Miller

Despite all our best efforts, things don’t always go the way we would hope. Sometimes we are stunned by the unexpected bad turn and left groping for answers.

Last week in my column about what motivated me to go on the March for California’s Future, I explained how the stories of my students inspired me:

As a community college professor at City College, I am particularly attuned to the painful realities of economic and racial inequality because I see the costs of poverty on a daily basis …

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The California Way of Poverty

May 16, 2016 by Jim Miller

Miller-marchers-walt-e1303747766621

By Jim Miller

Last week, I pondered the obscene spectacle of holding a mega-concert catering to the wealthy in the Southern California desert town of Indio where a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line.

The truth is that events like this that underline the contrast between the heedless luxury of the affluent with the deprivation of the poor are not the exception to the rule, but rather, a basic fact of everyday life in our era of historic economic inequality. It’s just the way we live now.

And in sunny California, San Diego in particular, the poor are accustomed to watching the party from the outside.

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Oligarchy Rocks at the Desert Trip Festival

May 9, 2016 by Jim Miller

raving mic

By Jim Miller

This easy life knows no pity.

Recently Nelson D. Schwartz of the New York Times did an interesting feature on luxury tourism on cruise ships, “In an Era of Privilege, Not Everyone is in the Same Boat,” that described the experience of travelers as “a money based caste system” catering to the rich rather than the unwashed masses.

While there is clearly nothing novel about elite travel, the story noted that “What is new is just how far big American companies are now willing to go to pamper the biggest spenders.”

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Getting Sandbagged by SANDAG: San Diego’s Failure of Imagination

May 2, 2016 by Jim Miller

soon san diego traffic

By Jim Miller

Last week Kevin Faulconer got some good press when, “under pressure from environmental groups,” he voted no to putting SANDAG’s deeply inadequate tax measure on the ballot citing San Diego’s Climate Action plan as one of the factors in his decision. Faulconer’s opponent, Ed Harris, was quick to point out that Faulconer’s vote was less about climate change and more about pleasing his anti-tax Republican base.

In a press release the Harris campaign observed that:

“Kevin Faulconer is using the environment as a prop to cover up his real reason for voting against SANDAG’s proposed infrastructure plan today,” said mayoral candidate Ed Harris. “He claims the reason for his no vote is the plan’s incompatibility with the city’s Climate Action Plan, but in October of last year he said just the opposite.”

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What’s the Matter With Corporate Education Reform?

April 25, 2016 by Jim Miller

Why Students and Teachers Won When the Vergara Decision was Overturned

By Jim Miller

school shadowsLast week I reviewed Thomas Frank’s Listen Liberal: What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? in which he lambastes professional-class Democrats for thinking that there is “no social or political problem that cannot be solved with more education and job training.”

This makes perfect sense because, as a class, professionals are “defined by educational attainment, and every time they tell the country that what it needs is more schooling, they are saying: Inequality is not a failure of the system; it is a failure of you.”

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Listen Liberal: What’s the Matter with the Democratic Party?

April 18, 2016 by Jim Miller

listen liberal pointBy Jim Miller

Thomas Frank has written the most important political book of 2016, and one that should disturb and hopefully influence progressives for years to come. If you have ever found yourself not just horrified by the lunatic right but also frustrated by the hapless and compromised “left,” Frank is your man.

If you want to feel good about “your side” but are still troubled by the fact that economic inequality remains at historically high levels despite the last eight years of Democratic Presidential rule, Frank has some uncomfortable truths for you to ponder.

And it’s not just about those damn Republicans.

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Here’s to the Folks Who Demanded the Impossible and Brought Us the $15 an Hour Minimum Wage: The Labor Movement

April 11, 2016 by Jim Miller

Marching Inside Wendy's just one year ago... (SEIU Photo)

By Jim Miller

Time to give credit where credit is due. It was not the noblesse oblige of individual politicians or the Democratic Party that brought us the $15 dollar an hour minimum wage, it was the labor movement.

Surely, the governors of New York and California and their fellow Democrats in those statehouses deserve credit for listening to the cry for economic justice and having the good sense to do the right thing, but the historic victory of the Fight for $15 that we have just celebrated would never have come to pass without the bold vision and prolonged struggle of working people standing together and demanding what many called impossible.

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Go Padres! “Vivas to Those Who Have Failed!”

April 4, 2016 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

in the standsToday is opening day and with it, if history is our guide, what is most likely another season of futility is born. Having grown up a Padres fan, this is par for the course as the Pads have only gone to the postseason five times and have a meager .463 winning percentage over the life of the franchise.

They are, in short, losers.

So why go? Why will I be sitting in the stands this afternoon as the Padres take on the Dodgers hoping against hope that the outcome will be different?

Sports psychologists inform me that my addiction to losing baseball might have some rough consequences. As Larry Stone reports in “The Psychology of Being a Sports Fan,” researchers have found that When your team loses, it’s like you lose a part of yourself, because your identity is so merged with the identity of the team and the fan community . . . Sports in the U.S. makes such a difference in people’s lives, a loss can be distressing.”

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Meet Sarah Saez: Candidate for San Diego City Council District 9 (Part Two)

March 21, 2016 by Jim Miller

via USD

By Jim Miller

Sarah Saez is best known locally for her work on the heroic United Taxi Workers of San Diego (UTWSD) campaign. As labor leader Richard Barrera noted after their big win in 2014:

The victory by UTWSD comes five years after drivers, improperly classified as independent contractors and without NLRB recognition, came together and organized a strike to protest their wages, benefits, and working conditions.

Despite constant harassment, retaliation, and intimidation by permit holders and dispatch companies over the last five years, and despite obstruction by public agencies, these workers stuck together, fought back against injustice, and prevailed. It reminds and teaches all of us that a union is not formed by formal government recognition, it is formed by workers standing together to fight for justice and a brighter future for their families.

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Meet Sarah Saez: Candidate for San Diego City Council District 9

March 14, 2016 by Jim Miller

Sarah-Saez-Organizer-225x300By Jim Miller

Sarah Saez is best known locally for her work on the heroic United Taxi Drivers of San Diego campaign. As labor leader Richard Barrera noted after their big win in 2014:

The victory by UTWSD comes five years after drivers, improperly classified as independent contractors and without NLRB recognition, came together and organized a strike to protest their wages, benefits and working conditions.

Despite constant harassment, retaliation and intimidation by permit holders and dispatch companies over the last five years, and despite obstruction by public agencies, these workers stuck together, fought back against injustice, and prevailed.

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A New American Majority in San Diego?

March 7, 2016 by Jim Miller

Brown is the New WhiteBy Jim Miller

Last week I had the pleasure of going to see a talk at Alliance San Diego by Steve Phillips, author of Brown is the New White: How the Demographic Revolution Has Created a New American Majority.

The central point that Phillips makes is that, at present, we already have a new American majority of 51% of the electorate comprised of progressive people of color and like-minded whites.

The problem we face, Phillips argues, is that we are failing to mobilize that majority because many in the consultant class and the upper reaches of the Democratic Party don’t believe the numbers and/or are stuck in an old pattern of chasing after the elusive “swing voter” typically identified as white who could be persuaded to vote for a Republican or a Democrat.

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Where is the Climate Crisis in Our National Discussion About the Future of the World? – The Stunning Moral Failure of the Presidential Debates

February 29, 2016 by Jim Miller

Climate-Crisis-300x204By Jim Miller

If you are an observant reader you might have noticed that last week, amidst the usual banal political commentary surrounding the Presidential race, the New York Times matter-of-factly reported that, “Seas are Rising at Fastest Rate in Last 28 Centuries”.

If you managed not to spit out your coffee, you read the alarming news that:

The worsening of tidal flooding in American coastal communities is largely a consequence of greenhouse gases from human activity, and the problem will grow far worse in coming decades, scientists reported . .

Those emissions, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels, are causing the ocean to rise at the fastest rate since at least the founding of ancient Rome, the scientists said.

And if that didn’t send you into a morning funk, you might have …

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What A New Supreme Court Means for Unions, Education Funding, and the Future of California

February 22, 2016 by Jim Miller

Photo by tedeytan

By Jim Miller

With the death of Antonin Scalia on February 13th, public sector unions in America were given a reprieve from what was sure to be a bad ruling in the Friedrichs v CTA case before the Supreme Court.

As Michael Hiltzik explained in the Los Angeles Times:

The target of the Friedrichs lawsuit, and several others just like it, is the “agency” or “fair share” fee. Under the law and according to a 1977 Supreme Court decision known as the Abood case, unionized public employees can be assessed nonmember fees to cover solely the cost of negotiations and contract enforcement, without being compelled to join the union and support its political activities by paying full union dues. That’s the arrangement in California.

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Pragmatic Realist: Dissing the Era of Big-Program Liberalism a Cover for Attack on Bernie

February 15, 2016 by Jim Miller

(Salvador Dali)

By Jim Miller

Last week, in a New York Times editorial, Mark Schmitt joined the chorus of clear-eyed “realists” chiming in against Bernie Sanders’ bold agenda in “Is the Era of Big-Program Liberalism Over?”

While acknowledging the political appeal and strategic advantages of universal programs, Schmitt argued that, given the presumably inevitable constraints of the present, the future belongs to an incrementalism that is “most interesting and novel for the absence of big, universal programs that require legislative action.”

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Quality Of Life Coalition Calls on SANDAG to Place Vision on Ballot

February 8, 2016 by Jim Miller

quality of lifeBy Jim Miller

In a recent interview, Naomi Klein discussed the reality facing anyone interested in promoting meaningful climate action.

The “structural problem” we face, according to Klein, is that people can “simultaneously understand the medium to long term risks of climate change” and still believe it is in their “short term economic [or political] interest” to continue business as usual.

This is precisely the situation concerned San Diegans face when dealing with the San Diego Association of Governments’ (SANDAG) limited vision when it comes to taking the actions needed to address the pressing threat of climate change at the local level.

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Clinton Democrats in 2016: Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here

February 1, 2016 by Jim Miller

botticcelli inferno

By Jim Miller

Whatever happens in today’s Iowa caucuses, one thing is abundantly clear—when confronted with a credible challenge from the left in the form of the Bernie Sanders, the response of much of the leadership of the Democratic Party and their allies in the corporate media has been to defend the status quo with great zeal even if it meant borrowing tropes from the right.

Whether it was red-baiting from Thomas Freidman or condescension mixed with an appeal to “realism” from Paul Krugman, the drumbeat was loud and consistent: Sanders’ agenda, with it’s direct ties to the legacies of Martin Luther King Jr. and FDR was simply an unrealistic option in the neoliberal era.

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Whither 2016 Ballot Measures?: The Oracle Jerry Brown Weighs In

January 25, 2016 by Jim Miller

Photo by Freedom To Marry

By Jim Miller

As I noted in my New Year’s column, many in California’s labor and progressive circles had high hopes for ballot measures extending Proposition 30’s taxes on the rich to fully fund education and for raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

But it did not take long for Governor Jerry Brown to rain on his presumed allies’ parade.

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Don’t Celebrate this MLK Day: American Oligarchy Is Killing the Dream

January 18, 2016 by Jim Miller

mlk statueBy Jim Miller

Don’t celebrate this Martin Luther King Jr. Day. And please don’t clap for anyone talking about how far we’ve come.

Rather than engaging in the usual empty gestures accompanied by vanilla rhetoric that turns Dr. King into a saint, we should be railing against the fact that last week, by indicating that they are prepared to cripple public sector unions, the Supreme Court of the United States took another huge step in moving the country further and further away from the America that King fought for and eventually gave his life to make a reality.

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American Media in 2016: Those Afflicting the Comfortable Need Not Apply

January 11, 2016 by Jim Miller

NewsmanBy Jim Miller

Just before the New Year I highlighted Project Censored’s pick for the most underreported story of 2015—the fact that 2016 will be when the top 1% will control half of the world’s wealth).

In that same column I focused on two other largely ignored stories that broke subsequent to Project Censored’s annual report that also underline the perils of domestic and international economic inequality.

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Top 10 Political Hopes for 2016

January 4, 2016 by Jim Miller

via UFT via UFT

By Jim Miller

It’s a new year and a big one for politics. Here is my pragmatic political wish list for 2016:

1) That Donald Trump actually wins the Republican Presidential nomination and brings the entire Republican Party down when the sizable majority of Americans who hate his ideas vote out the party up and down the ticket.

2) That Bernie Sanders wins some primaries and continues to unsettle the Democratic Party and build momentum for a continuing progressive movement in our politics, win or lose.

3) That the lack of a mayor’s race will finally convince San Diego progressives …

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Censored 2015: The Most Underreported Story of the Year

December 28, 2015 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

As I wrote back in mid-October, Project Censored recently released their list of the most underreported stories of 2015. The number one story on their list features the news that 2016 will be the year when half of the world’s wealth will be controlled by the top 1%. More specifically, they document how:

According to the Oxfam report, the proportion of global wealth owned by the 1 percent has increased from 44 percent in 2009 to 48 percent in 2014 and is projected to reach 50 percent in 2016.

In October 2014, a prior Oxfam report, “Even It Up: Time to End Extreme Poverty,” revealed that the number of billionaires worldwide had more than doubled since the 2009 financial crisis, showing that, although those at the top have recovered quickly, the vast majority of the world’s population are far from reaping the benefits of any recent economic recovery.

Even more staggering, the world’s richest eighty-five people now hold the same amount of wealth as half the world’s poorest population. “Failure to tackle inequality will leave hundreds of millions trapped in poverty unnecessarily,” the report’s authors warned.

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Three Progressive Literary Stocking Stuffers for 2015

December 21, 2015 by Jim Miller

Santa Claus w dogBy Jim Miller

It’s Christmas week and as we do every year, the grown-ups in my family are keeping up the tradition of buying nothing for each other.

But for those of you who must endure the fear and loathing of the consumer frenzy, here is my annual list of books that might serve as good stocking stuffers for the alienated progressives or other likely suspects on your list (with a special focus on some of the best work that received less attention than it deserved):

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